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What are too few ZZZs costing you?

As I See It

Americans are sleepy. A recent study by the National Sleep Foundation indicates that adults are sleeping an average of 6.9 hours per night during the workweek. A third of the survey participants reported sleeping less than 6.5 hours per work night. Experts recommend eight hours sleep per night.

One group who is particularly sleepy is young adults aged 18 to 29. They say they forfeit sleep in order to get more done. In addition to job demands, the young adults cited television and the Internet as culprits in depriving them of sleep.

Last year, I wrote a column reporting that the work week was getting longer and longer. At the turn of the 20th century, thinkers speculated that technological advances would shorten the work week to 15 to 20 hours by the end of the century. Their theory worked well until the 1970s when the work week began to increase steadily.

The sleep foundations’ survey links work habits to sleep habits. Those who work 60 or more hours per week report having trouble finding time to sleep. For night-shift workers, sleeping during the day is often difficult.

Some believe that the relentless bombardment of advertising to which we are subjected has raised the material expectations of the average worker to expect more “things” as just reward for working. Since “things” cost money and the craving for more things has exceeded the growth in wages, we must work longer and longer to pay for all this stuff to which we are entitled.

Unrelated to the sleep problem, but related to the subject of longer work hours, I continue to be concerned about the high personal debt level Americans have chosen to burden themselves with. Statistics indicate that we are buying a lot of consumer stuff on credit. We are not buying stuff from accumulated savings, but by mortgaging future income. Therefore, missing a couple of paychecks would spell disaster for many Americans.

Let’s review what we’ve said.

We’re working longer and sleeping less as we drift deeper and deeper into debt to finance the purchases that are going to make our lives easier and more enjoyable. How does one enjoy life under those circumstances?

At the risk of sounding “old fashioned” and “out of touch”, I would suggest that more of us tune-in to Dave Ramsey’s radio talk show and concentrate on getting our personal financial house in order. Quit buying non-essentials until all debts are paid in full and then pay with cash and sleep like a baby. Now there’s a novel idea!

If we choose to forego buying stuff until we can pay for it, we wouldn’t have to work so long and could sleep more. We would actually have time to enjoy what we do have in a relaxed frame of mind. Admittedly, we would stick out like a sore thumb in today’s materialistic society. To paraphrase a classic poem, we come to a fork in the road and, not being able to take both, choose the road less traveled and that has made all the difference.

THOUGHT FOR THE MOMENT

Perhaps the most valuable result of all education is the ability to make yourself do the thing you have to do when it ought to be done whether you like it or not. It is the first lesson that ought to be learned whenever training begins and it is probably the last lesson a person learns thoroughly.

— British biologist Thomas Huxley

Joe D. Jones, CPA, is publisher of the Mississippi Business Journal. His e-mail address is cpajones@msbusiness.com.

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